Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

Perfecting Digital Squiggles, Using New Tricks from a Stylus

Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

Perfecting Digital Squiggles, Using New Tricks from a Stylus

Article excerpt

Popular programs for writing notes on tablets include Noteshelf and Papyrus Natural Note Taking.

Years before Steven P. Jobs introduced the iPad to the world, tablet computers made regular appearances in science fiction shows. Fans of "Star Trek" will remember ensigns tapping on digital tablets or asking an officer to scribble a signature on one. Lots of those fictional machines had one thing in common: they worked with some sort of stylus and were digital equivalents of a traditional notepad.

Many of the most popular tablets now are finger-friendly, of course. But for a host of note-taking apps, the devices, like their fictional cousins, work best when paired with a stylus.

My favorite of these stylus-friendly options is Noteshelf, a $6 iPad app by Ramki. Its main interface is an empty page ready for you to write on, with controls in an icon bar at the top of the screen. You can choose from many predefined types of digital paper, including plain and ruled pages, and even one designed for musical notation.

Noteshelf supports digital styluses that connect to the app and relay information, like how hard you are pressing on the screen, to produce light or heavy lines. But the app also works well with a basic stylus, and you can get similar results with some easy tricks - - move the stylus faster to get a thinner line, for example.

Hand-writing notes feels a lot like writing with a pen and paper. A highlighter pen and eraser options are also slick, and there is a great system for selecting lines, drawings or text so you can adjust them later. There is even an emoticon option -- a feature students may appreciate to cheer up boring class notes.

You can add photos to your note pages, using intuitive multitouch gestures to move and resize images. But switching from a stylus to finger controls is a little jarring.

Noteshelf is good at ignoring the touch of your wrist if you accidentally lean your hand on the touch screen while writing. Your finished notes can be shared as images over e-mail, Twitter or Facebook, or sent as PDF files.

On Android, a rough equivalent is Papyrus Natural Note Taking, which is free. …

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